Pallavi Pinakin offers four pointers on how to stop postponing activities

Do you often find yourself watching music videos from the 1990s, sorting through random photos or simply staring into space, when you should be working on an important task? If so, welcome to the club! Procrastination is part and parcel of the human experience for the vast majority of us.

Regardless of how common it is however, this unproductive habit should be addressed pronto. Putting things off constantly can take a heavy toll – from gaining a reputation for missed deadlines (which can hold you back in your career progression) to getting in the way of major life changes (this can leave you feeling bitter and unfulfilled).

Often, the root cause of procrastination is fear. For instance, if you’re frightened of failing at a project, you may put off doing it until the last minute. That way, if you do badly, you can tell yourself that it was because you didn’t put in the necessary effort. In such a scenario, procrastination is a form of self-sabotage. By undermining your own success, you avoid putting yourself to the real test.

Another instance of fear driven procrastination is when you postpone a meaningful life change indefinitely – such as applying for a new job or going back to college because you’re wary of the upheaval and discomfort it will cause. So you hang on in the present, hoping that things will improve magically; or that someday, you’ll be strong enough to cut the cord.

Unfortunately, fear doesn’t diminish on its own over time. In fact, the more you feed it by putting things off, the more powerful it grows until it practically paralyses you into inaction. In order to overcome procrastination, you need to address its root causes and try a few productivity hacks. Here are some recommendations to help you get cracking.

HANDLE FAILURE Do you delay things indefinitely because you’re afraid of failing or being shown up as a failure? If so, it’s time to develop a healthier attitude to failure! Self-talk is crucial to this process. Instead of holding yourself to reach an impossible standard, and berating yourself for minor mistakes, your internal voice needs to become kinder and more learning oriented.

So the next time you have a crucial task ahead of you, don’t let irrational negativity hijack your self-narrative – keep it positive and realistic. Reassure yourself that you’re capable of handling the task; and that even if you don’t succeed fully, you’ll still learn something valuable that will help you do better next time.

Remind yourself that it’s actually good to ‘fail well’ – meaning that even when you fail after giving it your best shot, you’ll learn important lessons from the failure. This is also a good way to frame risky projects if you’re a manager dealing with team members who procrastinate.

THE BIG PICTURE When things aren’t urgent, they’re easier to ignore. Our inherent tendency is to focus on what is in front of us rather than what’s in the distant future. As a result, intentions like updating your skills and saving are all too easy to keep putting off. To curb this endless procrastination, you must consider the big picture.

Visualise your future: what does it look like? Do you see yourself climbing up the ladder to become a future leader? Do you see a comfortable retirement involving extensive travel? Keep this picture of the future front and centre to motivate yourself into action, whether it is in the form of a vision board, poster or quote – anything that reminds you of what’s at stake.

TIME TO STOP WAITING Many of us adopt a ‘someday’ attitude to our most cherished dreams. ‘Someday, I’ll start my own business.’ Or ‘someday, I’ll move to another country.’ Even ‘someday, I’ll write a book.’

Someday is a mythical future state where the circumstances will be perfect for us to do all the amazing things we dream of – something that’s impossible!

It’s critical to understand and accept that the conditions will never be ideal; you’ll simply have to work up the courage and take a leap of faith.

SCHEDULING WORK Sometimes, procrastination isn’t driven by fear but boredom. We tend to put off tedious activities like filing, completing paperwork and updating progress reports. Let’s face it, these types of administrative tasks are dull and it’s almost impossible to spice them up.

The most realistic solution therefore, is to reserve a daily or weekly slot in your calendar for mundane matters. In this window, turn off all notifications on your devices, put on your headphones and focus on getting the work done.

Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique is a method well worth trying.

Set the timer for 25 minutes, work intently for this period, reward yourself with a five minute break when the alarm goes off… and then start the cycle all over again.